Habits of highly effective dental practices

Do you place your patients' best interest first? If you do, the money will follow. But most importantly, your patients will receive the care they deserve and expect.

by Rhonda R. Savage, DDS

Do you place your patients' best interest first? If you do, the money will follow. But most importantly, your patients will receive the care they deserve and expect.

Here are three important habits of successful and effective dental practices.

1. Diagnose and treat periodontal disease

Times have changed with regards to periodontal diseases. Most people now agree that there may be a connection of the mouth to the body. While science isn't exact, research suggests that periodontal diseases may be linked to, or have an association with, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and preterm low birth weight babies. Is your practice current with the times? Patients are more knowledgeable today than ever before because of increased publicity surrounding periodontal diseases.

Having a written periodontal protocol is critical. The hygienist(s) and doctor(s) need to sit down as a team and talk about diagnosis. Practice on each other. What are your personal standards? Come to a consensus regarding the type of periodontal probe that's preferred and that provides the most accurate readings. Also be on the same page regarding the placement of the probe, the angle of the probe, and the proper amount of pressure on the probe.

2. Leverage teeth whitening as a gateway service

Take a shade match at the beginning of each hygiene appointment. This simple strategy can significantly increase patient interest in whitening. The hygienist or dental assistant can take a shade match at the beginning of each appointment. Chart the shade and let patients know that teeth generally darken over time, and that you can help them whiten their smile if they're interested.

Whitening can serve as a core business advantage to create a gateway for new and existing patients to become dedicated and loyal preventive, whitening, and restorative advocates. When patients' smiles are enhanced, they tend to be more interested in other services.

While dental team members may think whitening is old news, patients still want whiter, straighter teeth. Case acceptance is directly proportional to the enthusiasm of the presenter, so having a whitening champion in the office, such as the dental assistant or hygienist, can increase production and case acceptance. Whitening technology continues to advance. For example, Philips Zoom recently launched Zoom WhiteSpeed with LED technology and light intensity settings to allow the dental professional greater control to customize patient treatments.

3. Effectively use the dental assistant for the examination

Many offices struggle in this area. Some doctors do the entire examination process. The problem here is that often, when the assistant is involved, case acceptance increases. The more the assistant does, the more the doctor can have a handpiece in his or her hands, doing only those things a doctor can do. The same is true with hygienists. Moving the new patient exam to the assistant's chair creates more hygiene time for the services only a hygienist or doctor can perform. The dental assistant can also present information about products that can help a patient become healthier.

Begin your new patient exam with the dental assistant gathering information and setting the stage for case acceptance. They can:

  • Review the health history
  • Connect with the patient on what they might want to change about their smile
  • Take the necessary X-rays
  • Use the intraoral camera and engage patients about their oral health

– Has anyone explained the importance of replacing this missing tooth?
– Your gums look red and irritated. Do your gums bleed when you brush?
– Your filling is wearing down along the edges. Do you have any tooth sensitivity?
– Take a shade match

The doctor comes in and does the complete examination, looking at every single tooth as well as the soft tissues and bone. The doctor does the oral cancer screening also, and does a spot probe of the tissues. The dental assistant, once trained, can be an invaluable person who connects well with new patients. Also, the majority of the examination time with an assistant is more affordable for the practice.

To comprehensively treat your patients, you need to be attentive to each step or phase of dentistry. Highly effective practices tap into the talents of their dental assistants and maximize their hygiene, whitening, restorative, and preventive services.

Rhonda Savage, DDS, graduated from the University of Washington, School of Dentistry in 1989 with multiple honors. Dr. Savage was in private practice for 16 years, has authored many published peer-reviewed articles, and has lectured internationally. She is the chief executive officer of Miles Global, founded by Linda L. Miles. Contact Dr. Savage at Rhonda@MilesGlobal.net.

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